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The Woman in the Alcove Anna Katharine Green

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"Inspector, I do not intend to have you live with me through the five mortal hours which followed. I was enabled to pierce that plaster with my knife, and even to penetrate deep enough to afford a place for the tips of my fingers and afterward for the point of my toes, digging, prying, sweating, panting, listening, first for a sudden opening of the doors beneath, then for some shout or wicked interference from above as I worked my way up inch by inch, foot by foot, to what might not be safety after it was attained.

"Five hours--six. Then I struck something which proved to be a window; and when I realized this and knew that with but one more effort I should breathe freely again, I came as near falling as I had at any time before I began this terrible climb.

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"Happily, I had some premonition of my danger, and threw myself into a position which held me till the dizzy minute passed. Then I went calmly on with my work, and in another half-hour had reached the window, which, fortunately for me, not only opened inward, but was off the latch. It was with a sense of inexpressible relief that I clambered through this window and for a brief moment breathed in the pungent odor of cedar. But it could have been only for a moment. It was three o'clock in the afternoon before I found myself again in the outer air. The only way I can account for the lapse of time is that the strain to which both body and nerve had been subjected was too much for even my hardy body and that I fell to the floor of the cedar closet and from a faint went into a sleep that lasted until two. I can easily account for the last hour because it took me that long to cut the thick paneling from the door of the closet. However, I am here now, sir, and in very much the same condition in which I left that house. I thought my first duty was to tell you that I had seen Hiram Sears in that house last night and put you on his track."

I drew a long breath,--I think the inspector did. I had been almost rigid from excitement, and I don't believe he was quite free from it either. But his voice was calmer than I expected when he finally said:

"I'll remember this. It was a good night's work." Then the inspector put to him some questions, which seemed to fix the fact that Sears had left the house before Sweetwater did, after which he bade him send certain men to him and then go and fix himself up.

I believe he had forgotten me. I had almost forgotten myself.

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The Woman in the Alcove
Anna Katharine Green

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